That S4 feeling

Sarra Lumsden recalls that unique feeling that can only mean . . . the dreaded first day in school has arrived.

English Teacher, Ardrossan Academy, North Ayrshire

Fear paralysed her, disabling every rational, calm part of her mind. Sweat trickled down her back in slow, snaking paths. She simultaneously felt terror's ice cold fingers take a strangle hold around her neck, restricting her breathing, as hot waves of panic swept through her body.

As she stood studying herself in the mottled mirror, she watched as the colour drained from her face with her confidence. One last check of her clothing, ironed, starched, formal and black. One last smooth of her dark hair in a vain attempt to tame the external signs of the inner struggle that twisted her stomach and quickened her heart rate. A last pinch of her cheeks in vain attempt to draw back some sign of health. A search for the flaws and imperfections she knew they would find.

Her footsteps echoed along the silent tiled corridor, autumn light flickering through the narrow windows. The wind and rained stormed outside, duplicating her inner turmoil. The old building howled with the tempest battering its aged walls. The ghosts of her predecessors followed her slow steps, offering support and acknowledging her as one of them. She could not let them down. She was only one, the latest one, in a long line of determined, strong souls who had, as she did now, fought for a better world in face of hardship and difficulty.

The voices of the mob sought her out through the maze of passageways, calling her back into the moment. 'Show no fear,' her mentor's voice said again in her mind. Like wolves, they would sense her emotions and prey on any signs of weakness. "Remember the plan, show no emotion," she instructed herself. "Follow your dream."

She repeated her mantra, trying desperately to maintain her determination. This was her destiny. Everything she had worked towards had brought her here, to this place, to this moment. "Deep breaths," she whispered. She spoke to herself, trying to calm her nerves and focus her tortured and terrified mind.

Her trembling, cold hand reached for the door. She paused, steadying herself, trying to still the obvious sights of her fear. She set her face, firm, confident and calm. She had fought for this and now she must be the leader she had always wanted to be. Even if it meant marching into Hell to lead the troops back out. "No," she halted her thoughts, "remain rational and in control."

"Remember," she thought, "It's only fourth year."